Local boy meets hero

CHERRY VALLEY — A little boy with a life-threatening illness had his wish granted through the Kids Wish Network.

Cody Vanburen, 10, of Cherry Valley has been a loyal fan of the Discovery Channel’s “Man vs. Wild’’ hosted by adventurer Bear Grylls ever since the show began. Recently the youngster was able to meet the survival specialist. For Cody, the daredevil host is quite a hero and the little boy says he also sees a little bit of Grylls within himself: he views Grylls as a survivor, just as he views himself.

Cody was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition in which there are no nerve cells in certain organs, when he was only a day old. In his short 10 years, Cody has undergone over 70 surgeries to correct and treat his ailment. The little boy has had most of his large intestine removed and must have constant IV fluids.

For the past two years, Cody has been fed via IV, but is now trying to adjust to eating food by mouth. Cody was recently hospitalized and had to endure two blood transfusions. Later this year, he must endure another surgery on his intestine.

According to a media release from the Kids Wish Network, Cody’s grandmother referred him to the national children’s charity for a wish. The release said it wasn’t long after sending in the required paperwork before Cody’s mother, Lorel, was talking to Wish Coordinator Jill Atchison about her son.

When the little boy got on the phone with Atchison, she said she asked what his wish would be and he replied without any hesitation that he wanted to meet his hero, Bear Grylls.

Soon, Atchison said she was in contact with people of the Discovery Channel, who helped organize the meeting between Cody and the host of their show “Man vs. Wild.’’

In addition to the meet and greet with Grylls, Atchison arranged for accommodations, meals and a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits for Cody and his family to enjoy on his wish trip.

“This wish was amazing and I felt privileged to be able to help make it come true for Cody,’’ said Atchison via e-mail. “Cody is a very special young man.

He is a true survivor. He has had over 100 surgeries and when you meet him you would think he is just a normal kid. He truly touched my heart during his meeting with Bear, he knew everything about `Man vs. Wild’ and Bear and did not hesitate to tell him and ask questions.’’

Atchison, who has been a wish coordinator for the Kids Wish Network for two and a half years, said helping make the wish come true was special because Cody has been really sick this past year and had to spend a lot of time in the hospital.

“For me, being able to make this happen, and so close to Christmas, was a bonus,’’ said Atchison. “To see him so happy just made me want to cry.’’

“I love my job because I enjoy being a part of making these kids happy and seeing them smile and have fun. Sometimes these wishes are the only good thing the kids have to look forward to,’’ added Atchison.

According to the media release, Cody and his hero struck up conversation as soon as Grylls walked into the room, According to Lorel, they didn’t stop talking until it was time for Grylls to go.

“Bear was so down to earth and he definitely inspired Cody,’’ said his mother Lorel. “I havent seen him (Cody) smile like that in a long time.’’

In addition to wanting to talk to Gryllsr, Cody had a few things he wanted to give the adventurer including a New York hat, some homemade cookies and a throwing star that he carved out of sticks and put together himself. In return, Grylls brought a personalized book that he wanted to give to Vanburen.

“Cody was so impressed that Bear gave him a book,’’ said Lorel. “It really made his day.’’

Lorel brought along a scrapbook of pictures of her son to show Grylls. The scrapbook included pictures of her young son dressed up like his hero.

According to the media release, Grylls was so taken by the scrapbook that he asked if he could keep it and the young boy happily acquiesced.

Grylls, who is also a father and Chief Scout for the UK Scout Association, was so impressed with his young fan that he told him when it came time for him to retire, he would happily turn the show over to Cody.

“It was wonderful,’’ said Lorel. “This definitely made Cody happy.’’

After meeting with Grylls, Vanburen visited the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. There, he said his favorite exhibits were the ones with models of saber-toothed tigers, especially a moving model that featured a sabertoothed tiger attacking its prey.

Now that he’s home, Cody has pasted the pictures from his trip all over the living room. He said the pictures would not be displaced by holiday decorations.

The Kids Wish Network thanks the following for helping make the wish come true: Grylls, Discovery Channel, U.S. Airways, Renaissance Hollywood Hotel, ALS Limo, The Grill on Hollywood, Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Callendar’s Grill, Universal Studios and Kung Pao Kitty.

Cooperstown Crier
Cherry Valley, NY
Published: 01/01/10


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48,632 kids helped this last fiscal year through our many programs and services.

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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.